Sunday, July 8, 2012

From Fat to Phat: Losing Weight Changed My Life

Fatty. Tubby. Fatso. These are names that I was called every day by kids in school. These kids brought down my self-esteem dramatically and hurt my feelings more than anyone can ever know. I was 14 years old, weighing in at a whopping 196 pounds - but I was only 5'3" tall.

I was not always fat. I just started to eat a lot when I was 14. Maybe it was because I was about to hit a growth spurt and my body needed the food. Maybe it was because I was bored. I don't know. Since I'm Italian, food is pretty central to the way that we live life. If you're upset, you eat. If you're happy, you eat. If you're out with friends or family, you are probably at a restaurant eating. Pretty soon, I wasn't happy doing anything unless food was involved.

I hated school, not because of the work, but because I didn't want to subject myself to the torment of my classmates. I was afraid of getting dressed in gym because that meant that I had to take my shirt off. I didn't exactly have a six-pack, and changing in gym just gave the kids more reason to make fun of me and call me names.

To lose weight and get some exercise, I joined my high school's football and lacrosse teams. Boy, was that a bad idea. The week before a big football game, the coach would make the team run sprints. I was always dead last because I had trouble breathing as I ran - mostly because of being overweight. My teammates would come up to me after practice and thank me. I always wondered what they were thanking me for. Then, one kid explained it. He said, "Everyone is thanking you because you always come in last during sprints, and that gives us more time to rest." I was so embarrassed.

During lacrosse season, the coach would put me in practice games with the team. Doing this helped the other kids take better shots because it was very easy to get around me, or I was too slow to catch them. I was defined as a bad athlete even though I was trying my hardest.

I didn't have many friends to hang out with. When all of the kids in school went to parties and hung out with each other over the weekends, I would have no one. I would always stay at home, playing video games. Nobody ever even picked up the telephone to call me. It was a very lonely time in my life.

On the night of January 5, 2005, my family and I went to a restaurant after my younger sister's school concert. After our dinner, we all ordered ice cream - and, boy, was it good. We all finished every last bite. As we walked to the register to pay, we overheard a man say to his wife, "Now, did that family really need that ice cream?" My mom overheard the comment, and she was mortified. You see, my entire family was overweight. None of us ever thought we had a problem, because we were such a good moral support to each other. When we heard what other people - a stranger, even - thought about our appearance, Mom realized that it was definitely a time for a change.

As soon as we got home that night, Mom threw out all of the junk food in the house. Then, she put the entire family on a strict diet. It was a low-carb diet, which meant that we could only eat food with low to no carbohydrates. In the morning, Mom would make eggs or I had a bowl of cereal with no sugar. For lunch, she made me a cold cut sandwich on low carb bread and a cheese stick for a snack. When it would come to dinner, we would either eat chicken, steak or hamburgers without the bun. Even though I didn't like what my mom was doing, it had to be done.

I was losing weight, but it was still not enough. I joined swimming for exercise because I needed knee surgery. I couldn't play football or lacrosse again, which wasn't a bad thing for me. I ended up staying in swimming because I got really good at it. Plus, I found a sport that I actually liked, and helped me lose weight even faster.

After a little over a year, I was still on the diet and still swimming for the team. I am 17 years old now, weighing in at a trim 160 pounds and standing proud at 5'11" tall. The fat is gone, and I am all muscle. Mom lost around 60 pounds, my sister (who, by the way, was 11 when we started the diet) lost 23 pounds and Dad lost 50 pounds. Even after I lost the weight I needed to lose, the diet became a way of life for me.

I spent a year and a half dieting and exercising with the support of my family and lost nearly 40 pounds. This is a huge accomplishment for me. Not only did it make me feel good to lose weight, it also boosted my self-esteem in a big way. I don't feel embarrassed to get dressed in gym anymore. If the kids call me fat, I know that they are probably just jealous. I am happier, healthier and I have a lot of friends. I will never, ever gain that kind of weight again.

Being overweight is not only unhealthy, it is dangerous. I was only 14 when this all started, but I've learned that being overweight can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and a lot of other medical problems. For me, losing weight was not an easy task. I was tempted all the time by chips, candy and other junk food. But, I did it. And, if I can do it, anyone can. Just remember that it is your choice if you want to lose weight or not.

I am so thankful that my mother showed us the way to lose weight and lead a healthier life. I am very happy that my family lost weight together, because the support system really kept me strong. My mother was there when I needed her the most - even if she did take away the junk food that I tried to eat behind her back. Thanks, Mom, for changing my life.